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Gubernatorial candidates agree on first debate

Gov. Kate Brown and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce have agreed to their first debate for the race for the state's top post.

The debate, hosted by the Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist, is scheduled for Sept. 24 in Bend.

The debate will focus solely on issues facing Oregon’s rural residents.

“The Oregon Territory SPJ believes it is important to have an honest and open exchange at the highest levels about the state’s future in rural areas,” said Oregon SPJ President Samantha Swindler. “With more than a month between this debate and election day, we hope the issues raised will help give voters enough time to learn where the two major candidates stand on a range of rural issues, from the environment to education to the economy.”

Oregon SPJ will host the debate in partnership with The East Oregonian, KTVZ-TV and Jefferson Public Radio. The Oregon SPJ Board sought those particular media partners because they serve rural Oregon, Swindler said.

The hour-long debate will be a moderator-panelist format in front of a live audience. Candidates may give a 90-second opening statement and a 90-second closing statement. They will field questions from the panel made up of rural journalists. Candidates will have 60 seconds to respond, with a 30-second rebuttal period.

The exact location has yet to be finalized.

"Governor Brown is looking forward to debating her opponent at the SPJ debate this September," said Liz Accola Meunier, a spokeswoman for Brown's campaign. "This will be an exciting opportunity to discuss issues important to rural voters and share her vision for moving Oregon forward."

The announcement follows controversy over Brown's decision to skip a July 22 debate sponsored by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. That debate has traditionally served as the first debate of the campaign. No other gubernatorial incumbent has declined to appear in the debate since it began 30 years ago, according to ONPA.

“Kate Brown has been avoiding taking positions on critical issues facing Oregon,” Pierce said. “So I think this debate will be a great time for voters to hear both mine and Brown’s opinions on issues that matter to voters.”

The Salem oncologist also urged Brown to reconsider her decision to decline the ONPA debate.

“Kate Brown has a special obligation to participate in these debates, because she was appointed, not elected to the Governor’s Office,” Pierce said.

Brown has said she plans to participate in at least three debates, starting no sooner than Sept. 1, and will consider more on a case-by-case basis. Pierce has called for a minimum of six debates, including one in Spanish.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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